With its gorgeous, dramatic early-evening sunsets, leaves changing to glorious rich hues, cool breezes hinting of snows to come, and Thanksgiving holiday dedicated to celebrating blessings and bounty, fall is the perfect time of year to slow down and reflect on everything for which we are grateful.
Not only does taking time to focus on gratitude help us shift to a more positive, optimistic mindset, positive psychology research has shown that gratitude also imparts a wide array of other social, emotional and physical benefits. These include:
- Improving our self-esteem,
- Making us more generous,
- Improving the quality of our sleep,
- Boosting our immune system and improving our overall health, and
- Improving our relationships with family, friends and community members by making us kinder and more appreciative.
It’s no wonder, then, that bestselling author Eckhart Tolle wrote that “acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” and inspirational writer William Arthur Ward noted that “gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
Here are some ways you can begin to cultivate your “attitude of gratitude” and begin experiencing the accompanying mental and physical benefits. Once you start looking for things to be thankful for, you’ll see them everywhere!
Keep a gratitude journal. Set aside time at least once or twice a week to write down a few things for which you are thankful. Gratitude can encompass all our senses, so you may find yourself noting your appreciation for the sound of the wind rustling through the trees on a nature walk, a chat with a friend or family member, or the scent of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven. Residents of Lexington Squares senior living communities have shared how thankful they are that everything they need is provided on-site, including delicious chef-prepared meals; a variety of social and recreational opportunities, including an indoor pool; a coffee shop, library, bank and more. Need inspiration to get you started with your gratitude journal? Check out this list of 50 reasons to be thankful!
Write a note of gratitude. It takes only a few minutes to send a heartfelt note, email or text message thanking someone for a recent act of kindness or generosity, or just for being an important part of your life. For instance, family members of Lexington Squares residents often send notes like this one expressing appreciation to our amazing staff for everything they do to ensure the best possible experience in our retirement community. Everyone wants to feel appreciated – and many people hold onto thank you notes for years, so their impact goes on and on.
Practice mindfulness, which is the art of being fully present and engaged in the moment without judging our experience. Mindfulness can be more difficult with so many digital distractions available to us these days, but that also makes it all the more important! You might try bringing a new awareness to routine activities, such as enjoying your morning cup of coffee or tea; eating mindfully; or choosing something you see or experience daily – such as your evening meal, or a specific piece of furniture in your home – that will remind you to step into mindfulness.
Look for instances of gratitude in your community or on the news, such as thank-you notes written in chalk for first responders or positive messages painted on rocks and left for others to find and enjoy. Not only will this shift your focus to the positive things going on in the world, you may get some ideas of your own for expressing gratitude!
As this beautiful season continues to unfurl its gifts, let us heed the advice of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously.”
Or, in the words of author Kurt Vonnegut: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”